Homebrewing in the lockdown

The travelling restrictions, or lockdown, needed to reduce contagion of CV-19 is having a detrimental effect on my homebrewing as I need to travel over to Fratton to collect ingredients, travel which is hard to justify as “essential”. Thankfully, before the current lockdown I was able to get to GetBrewing.UK , in Fratton, and buy sufficient ingredients for 4 brews.

I remember the delicious taste of Gales HSB from the Horse and Jockey, Curbridge, where I remember spending many a lunchtime while working for Digital at the Solent Business Park, so I thought I’d give the recipe for Gale’s HSB a go and try to recreate that taste.

The fruits of my labour are now ready to drink, well, at least the first batch is.

Fullers bought Gales brewery a few years back and since then HSB never really tasted as good as I remember, but it’s still good. There are a number of recipes available on line, I used the one from Graham Wheelers book.

The fermentation was with Empire yeast at 19C for a full three weeks then kegged and left to condition. I left it 5 weeks to condition before sampling it. It was really tasty, but more than 2 glasses leave me with a bit of a dull head. After 3 glasses I have found that my tongue stops working properly.

Homebrew HSB

Although a little cloudy at first it soon cleared up and is really tasty. I’ve made three 2 gallon batches and will definitely brew more once the current lockdown is relaxed and I can get over to GetBrewing.UK

I will be leaving the remaining two kegs longer to condition in order to help the initial clarity. I might experiment with the next brew by adding in just a little more hops to give it more of a fruity bite.

Update 9th Feb

Disaster. It’s all gone. Well, the first keg full is. I can’t find any sign of a leak; Fiona has not been helping herself to it. Damn! I guess I should be brewing 5 gallon batches.

Homebrew 49r on his holidays

Relaxing in the evening

Homebrew 49er is enjoying his holidays too. Here he is looking cool but not chilled (there’s no room for him in the fridge). He has travelled well, and his only problem is loss of weight. He started off at just over 5kg, but is now down to about 750g and will soon be all gone.

I must take a pair of them next time, so they don’t get lonely.

Homebrew Beer

I enjoy drinking beer, but I don’t enjoy traipsing around Waitrose, Tesco or Sainsbury’s looking for it only not to find it at the right price. The cost of Hobgoblin can vary anywhere between £1.25 and £1.99. There has got to be a better, cheaper and more reliable way of getting access to plenty of high quality beer.

Fear not, there is a better way. It’s called ‘Homebrew’.

I dallied with homebrew about 20 years ago, but at the time it was extract beer and guesswork recipes. My beer was passable, but nothing to write home about. This time I have more time on my hands and decided to do it properly. I’d love to have bought a Speidel Braumeister, but the 10litre version is rather expensive at £1000. So, I decided to buy the SS Brewtech 5 gallon brew kettle, mini brew bucket fermenter and a small drinks cooler, and to brew my own all-grain beer from the recipes available in Graham Wheeler’s book ‘Brew your own British real ale’, and from beerrecipes.org. I have decided to brew batches of about 2 gallons instead of the ‘industry standard’ 5 gallons. This will allow me to brew more frequently, I have less stock on hand and will have less to dump if it tastes awful.

For my first attempt I used malt extract rather than all-grain; this was really just to help me understand the process. My second attempt was a 1 gallon fairly low alcohol all-grain batch, which conditioned quickly and was drunk quickly too. Since then I have been brewing all-grain beers following the recipes for Ringwood Fortyniner and Ringwood Old Thumper. The latest brew followed the Ringwood XXXX Porter recipe.

The Old Thumper and Fortyniner are currently conditioning in 2gallon plastic casks, the porter is still in the fermenter and bubbling a treat.

Mashing the grains at 66C for 90 minutes in a well insulated cold drinks dispenser. The temperature at the end of the 90 minutes was 64C.

Boiling the wort for 90 minutes.  Notice the 3KW induction heater which brings the 5 gallons to a boil within about 20 minutes. Pity all the steam didn’t go out the window

All cooled and in the fermenter with the yeast doing its job. The OG was recorded at 1.057. The phial next to the fermenter shows the colour of the beer. Fermentation will last take around 10 days, then the beer will be conditioned for around 6 weeks. It should be ready to drink just after Christmas. 

Updated 24th Nov

Fermentation started slowly (a characteristic of the Ringwood yeast), but soon became frantic bubbling through the air lock at a rate of one bubble per second. Bubbling lasted for about 5 days before slowing down to one bubble every 20-30 seconds.

After 12 days in the fermenter I decided to transfer it all to a barrel where it is now conditioning in the hope that it’ll be ready for Christmas.

Final gravity recorded was 1010, which I am happy with. I can’t wait for Christmas to taste it.

Updated 4th December

Another brew was started on the 24th November, this time its a Ringwood Old Thumper. My gravity readings were spot on with an OG of 1055. This time I used Windsor dry yeast instead of the Ringwood smackpack and I also added a small quantity of chocolate malt into the mash. I rehydrated the yeast and pitched it after cooling the wort overnight. Fermentation started within hours. By Friday lunchtime it was bubbling nicely, with a bubble through the airlock every few seconds. As the temperature in the kitchen is fairly warm I decided to move the fermenter to the garage. However, we went away for a few days and on the Monday night the temperature in the garage plummeted to around 6C. Needless to say that when we returned home the temperature of the beer was only 14C and bubbling had ceased. I stirred the beer and brought it back into the kitchen and heated it to try and wake the yeast up. Only time will tell if its been ruined. I’ll barrel it this week and start the next brew of Old Thumper straight away.

While away in Devizes I tried the Wadsworths 6X which was very nice. There are recipes for Wadsworth ales in Graham Wheeler’s book so I might give them a try over the coming weeks.

Update 17th December

A batch of Ringwood 49’r was started on the 14th December. I wrapped the kettle in clingfilm and left it outdoors overnight to cool and then added the yeast the following morning. Fermentation had started by lunchtime.

I checked on the earlier batch of Old Thumper. The yeast I used was Windsor which completes fermentation in three days. This means that fermentation had completed before the temperature dropped. My warming and stirring the wort after that will help with its diacetyl rest so the batch has not been ruined. It should be ready to drink in about 6 weeks. Phew.

Tasting the Porter

It’s nice.

It’s very tasty, slight hint of chocolate, nice aftertaste. I’ve got about 16 pints of the stuff which I’m going to save for Christmas.

A present to myself, but I will share it.

Tasting the Fortyniner

The Fortyniner is the first brew that I primed. The reason I primed it was to make it ready for Christmas. I’ve tasted the brew a few times in the past month and can now declare it fully ready. It has cleared nicely and has a nice fresh taste to it. Its slightly lighter in colour that the bottled stuff produced by Ringwood because I deliberately left out the chocolate malt.

Update 8th January

For my latest brew I used the recipe for ‘Gale’s Festival Mild’, a very black beer which should be ready in about 2 months time.

Those with good eyesight may be able to see the OG reading of 1056. This means that its going to need a minimum of 6 weeks conditioning before it is drinkable. Roll on mid March.